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Recognizing a Phishing Attempt

Phishers use a variety of means to gain your Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Learn how to recognize a phishing attempt.

Vehicles for Phishing Attempts

  • Emails
  • Pop-up windows or messages
  • Phone calls
  • Instant messages (IMs) 
  • Text messages

You Can Tell It's a Phishing Attempt

if it:

  • Has a deceptive email header. Check message headers carefully to see who the sender really is. Phishers use colors, logos and phrasing from companies and universities to make their communication seem genuine and mimic a legitimate email address.
  • Directs you to a website that looks legitimate, but is not. Sometimes the phisher uses a URL that appears similar to a genuine source’s URL in order to trick you. To avoid being fooled:
    • Make sure the URL for any form matches the trusted place you intend to go.
    • Hover your mouse over a link without clicking it to see the link’s destination.
    • Do an Internet search for the actual company URL.
  • Asks you to give, update, validate or confirm your account information.
  • Requires an immediate response such as, “You must respond within 24 hours”.
  • Threatens dire consequences if you do not respond.
  • Contains forms or dialogue boxes that prompt you to enter your PII.
  • Is not a secure page. Before entering any PII, be sure a page is security enabled (starts with https, not http). Never fill in forms you receive in email, or ones you were directed to by an unsolicited message, pop-up or text.
  • Contains spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Fails to address you by your name and instead addresses you as “Client,” “User” or “Customer”.
  • Appears to be from a reliable source. Phishers disguise themselves as  reliable, familiar sources like a bank, telephone or computer companies.
  • Promises services or rewards that are too good to be true like offers on coupons or promises to remove computer viruses. This is often a way of gaining access to your email address or computer itself.
  • Tries to entice you by offering you the latest technology. Phishers will often use products like iPads, phones, laptops, and flat screen televisions to get your email address or phone number.
  • Looks like a suspicious update by a friend on a social media network. Scammers target popular social media sites and use messages or updates from friends as a way to lure you to sites requesting your PII.

Sample Phishing Messages

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